University of Vermont

Vermont Quarterly


Roommates excel in class, on court

Sandro Carissimo and Luke Apfeld
Sandro Carissimo and Luke Apfeld, photograph by Sally McCay

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Catamount Sports


Roommates excel in class, on court

by Jon Reidel

A few years from now if Luke Apfeld fulfills his dream of becoming a civil rights attorney on his way to a second career as an English professor, and Sandro Carissimo is a successful investment banker back home in New York City, it will come as no surprise to their teammates on the men’s basketball team or their classmates in UVM’s Honors College. 

The close friends and junior roommates, who helped lead the Catamounts to an NCAA Tournament win last season, are a rare college basketball tandem: teammates who lead their program in both scoring and grade point average. Apfeld, a 6-foot-7 forward with a double major in English and sociology, owns a 3.8 GPA to go along with his 10.3 scoring average, while Carissimo, 6-foot-2 point guard with a 3.6 GPA in accounting and finance in the School of Business Administration, averages 9.3 points per game.

“We have a lot of common interests, we’re both pretty low key and take our academics seriously,” says Apfeld, one of only eleven players in the nation named to the 2012 Division I-AAA Athletics Directors Association Scholar-Athlete Team. “It’s nice to know that when you come back to the apartment you’ll be able to study and it will be pretty clean. It’s a productive environment.”     

For both members of the All-Academic America East team (only five are selected from the conference each year), success in academics came long before it did in basketball, especially for Apfeld who was a late bloomer on the court. He focused instead on his studies and playing classical piano two hours a day while growing up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, driving with his mother to Atlanta for lessons and to participate in competitions. Apfeld’s passion switched to basketball as he began to excel at the sport in middle school about the time his family moved to New England. He enrolled at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire, where he would become a star player, class president, and an accomplished jazz pianist. (Assessing his roommate’s keyboard prowess, Carissimo makes it plain: “He’s really good.”)

“My parents always stressed academics,” says Apfeld, who lived in Switzerland as a young child and has an older brother who went to Brown and a sister at Rice University. “Since an early age basketball wasn’t my focus, so when it became a possibility I already had the academic foundation.”

Apfeld’s hoop dreams almost came crashing down after tearing his ACL twice within a sixteen-month stretch before graduating from Brewster. Some schools backed off, but UVM made good on its full scholarship offer and supported Apfeld after a third ACL surgery and a medical redshirt season in 2009-2010. “It’s pretty amazing what he’s been able to accomplish considering that he’s blown out his ACL three times,” says UVM Head Coach John Becker.

Carissimo also experienced a setback in high school at high-powered Iona Prep when he suffered an illness before his senior season. He’d already built a reputation as a solid shooting guard on New York City’s legendary Riverside Hawks AAA program (producer of more than ninety NBA players), and later with the famed New York Gauchos.

“For a while my life was academics and basketball,” says Carissimo, who has applied for internships at Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Merrill Lynch after reaching out to UVM alums at each financial institution. Looking back on his college choice, he says, “I visited Yale and some other Ivy League schools, but I knew that UVM was a Public Ivy and that if I applied myself here I could do anything I wanted after graduation.”

Not long after arriving on campus, Carissimo was asked to make the difficult transition of playing the two-guard position to running offense as the team’s point guard. Becker says he seamlessly took over the position and promptly guided the Catamounts to ten straight wins as a freshman. Carissimo, who holds Italian citizenship and would like to play there professionally after graduation, continues to improve at the position and is continuing UVM’s tradition of producing point guard prodigies such as Howard Hudson ’86, Kenny White ’92, Eddie Benton ’96, David Roach ’00, T.J. Sorrentine ’05 and Mike Trimboli ’09.

“We get notes from professors telling us how well Luke and Sandro do in their classes,” says Becker. “It’s been a pleasure having them on the team and watching them set a positive example for our younger players. I think their best is yet to come.”

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